transforming_physics_education

We next examine a second aspect of learning simple

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Unformatted text preview: physicists. We next examine a second aspect of learning, simple transfer of information and ideas from teacher to student in a traditional physics lecture. The following example is from data collected in our own introductory physics class for non-science majors. After explaining the physics of sound in our usual incredibly engaging and lucid fashion, we brought a violin into class. We explained how, in accordance with the physics we had just explained, the strings do not move enough air to create the sound from the violin. Rather, the strings cause the back of the violin to move via the soundpost, and thus it is the back of the violin that actually produces the sound that is heard. Fifteen minutes later, we asked the students the multiple choice question shown in figure 3, “The sound you hear from a violin is produced mostly by . . .” As illustrated in the figure, only 10% gave the correct answer. We have seen that this 10% level of retention after 15 minutes is typical for a nonobvious or counterintuitive fact that is presented in a lecture, even when the audience is primarily physics faculty and graduate students. When we have asked physics teachers to predict the student responses to the violin question, nearly all of them greatly overestimate the fraction of students who answer correctly. Many physics faculty go so far as to simply refuse to believe the data. For readers who may share their skepticism, we briefly mention two other studies. Redish had students interviewed just as they came out of his lecture.4 The interviewer simply asked the students, “What was the lecture about?” The students were unable to recall anything beyond the general topic. In a more structured study,9 Zdeslav Hrepic and coworkers gave 18 students six elementary questions on the physics of sound. Immediately after attempting to answer the questions, the students were told that they were to get the answers to the six questions from watching a 14-minute commercially produced videotaped presentation given by a nationally renowned physics lecturer. For most of the six questions, no more than one student was able to learn the correct answer from the lecture, even under these highly optimized conditions! When presented with these data, teachers often ask, “Does this mean that all lectures are bad?” The brief answer is no, but to be effective, lectures must be carefully designed according to established, but not widely recoghttp://www.physicstoday.org Figure 1. Students master relatively few concepts in physics courses using traditional instruction. The histogram shows, for the Force Concepts Inventory (FCI), the average normalized learning gain—that is, the fraction of the concepts that students learned that they did not already know at the start of the course. Results from 14 traditional courses are in red, and results from 48 courses using a wide variety of interactive-engagement techniques are shown in green. Superimposed on the histogram are data (blue arrows) from two large lecture courses that use well-...
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